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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Primary Sources: Home

A guide to finding and using primary sources

What are primary sources and how do I use them?

If your research requires the use of primary sources (documents or other artifacts providing first-hand evidence of information on a given subject), the following resources can help you understand what they are and how to find, use and evaluate them. With the advent of the digital age, access to primary sources has greatly increased. We now have the ability to incorporate their use into our research and learning as never before. Bear in mind, however, that just like any piece of information, primary sources (especially those found on the Web) need to be critically evaluated as to their authorship, objectivity, suitability, etc. Primary sources are a broad and sometimes complex topic, and this guide is intended only as a starting point for finding and using them.

In this guide you will find information on:

  • Primary Source Guides to help you understand what primary sources are and how to find and use them
  • Library Databases suggested for finding actual primary sources
  • Primary Source Material - Digitized historical books as well as freely available web sites that provide primary source material
  • Additional resources for using primary sources as well as information on actual primary source material

Get Help from a Reference Librarian

When you do research for your classes, you shouldn't hesitate to ask a reference librarian for assistance. Determining which resources you should choose, knowing how to search them, and being able to incorporate the newly found information into your paper are skills you will need to learn. Becoming a savvy researcher may take a while. In the meantime, you can count on the reference librarians to guide you through the research process.  

Feel free to stop by the reference desk on the 2nd floor of the library and talk in person to the librarian on duty.

You can also reach a reference librarian by phone at (212) 237 8246.

In addition, you can ask a question by email.

For other ways to contact librarians see this page